CHESHIRE’S fire precept will rise by 2.99 per cent but residents have been warned that major cuts could hamper the service’s ability to save lives.

Cheshire Fire Authority approved its 2019-20 budget, tax precept and medium-term financial plan for 2019-22 at today’s meeting in Winsford.

It is required to approve a budget and set a precept – which is the authority’s share of the council tax bill – for the financial year commencing on April 1.

A 2.99 per cent increase will see Band D residents across the county pay an average fire precept totalling £77.74 – an increase of £2.26 from the current rate.

But the proposals will lead to cuts totalling around £1.35 million.

The proposals include £265,000 of savings identified from pay-related costs and adjustments to pay budgets, £100,000 of savings from insurance costs and £47,000 from the annual report no longer being distributed to households.

The £43.46 million budget is based on the final year of the Government’s four-year settlement.

But Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service chiefs say the future of the funding remains uncertain and will be subject to this year’s proposed spending review by the Treasury.

The authority insists savings have been identified as a result of thorough reviews of budgets with the intention of protecting frontline services.

Cheshire Fire Authority chairman Cllr Bob Rudd said the Government ‘keep blaming’ Brexit for major issues.

The Cheshire West and Chester Labour councillor added: "I did happen to be at a meeting with the fire minister two or three weeks ago, where he mentioned about the comprehensive spending review being next year.

"I thought he made a mistake, so I corrected him.

"But I am beginning to wonder whether or not that wasn’t a mistake and whether it will be kicked into the long grass.

"At some stage, we will need to make quite clear to the Government enough is enough regarding the cuts we have had to face over a number of years."

Shortly after, serious concerns were raised over the funding provided by Government by Warrington Labour councillor Steve Wright, who told members that austerity is not over before raising concerns over the ‘reprehensible situation, which is causing us great concern’.

He said: "These are cuts to services we are having to discuss with the people of Cheshire and then we are asking the people of Cheshire to stump up extra money to cover these cuts in services.

"These are cuts to our ability of, perhaps, saving lives.

"I understand that officers have to say 'savings', that is the language they have to use, but these really are cuts to the services the people of Cheshire depend on.

"Austerity is here to stay."